Sketching a Cat à la Manet

A very quick drawing of cats with pencil

How to quickly sketch a cat?

For today’s project, all I had was a few minutes of free time. I was not in the mood for a long and complicated project. I must confess that it is easier for me to draw and show you a very long project: as a self-taught artist, I sometimes lack self-confidence, and I find it more comfortable to take time to polish and refine a work. When a project is very brief, all the mistakes and weaknesses can be clearly seen.

But I know, deep down, that these mistakes and weaknesses are also, sometimes, part of the beauty. And that my training would not be complete – by my own personal standards, of course, you will have yours – if I did not get more comfortable with quick sketches. I have read somewhere that Delacroix, the famous French painter, said that an accomplished artist should be able to draw a cat within the time it takes a cat to fall back on its feet (by the way, I have not been able to find that quote again, so if you happen to know where it comes from, I would be so grateful if you could send me a message).

Speaking of cats, this drawing is the exact embodiment of that thought. Manet, a painter whom I admire very much, drew this sleeping cat in what you would easily guess was a matter of minutes. Is it perfectly or accurately drawn? No, probably not. Is it beautiful and inspiring, and does it make you want to cuddle the cat, even as you find the brisk strokes of the pen incredible? Yes, I think, a thousand times yes.

So this is the exercise I submitted myself to today. Try to take less than 5 minutes to draw a cat – no erasing, no thinking. I did three sketches that way, and it took me 14 minutes from beginning to end. I noticed that I was already much more comfortable by the third sketch, and I think it shows in the final result.

Édouard Manet,  A Cat Curled Up, Sleeping , 1861, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Clifford A. Furst, by exchange, 1995.

Édouard Manet, A Cat Curled Up, Sleeping, 1861, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Clifford A. Furst, by exchange, 1995.

Édouard Manet (Paris 1832 – Paris 1883) was a French painter who chose to paint events and people around him. His modernity inspired the artists who later formed the Impressionists.

 

Materials

 

I would usually use a graphite pencil, but I noticed a while ago that it was not easy to photograph graphite pencil on light brown paper (to mimic the old paper of Manet’s sketch) from above, because the light was too reflective on it. I decided to use a black pencil so you can see it better.

 

 

First cat

Let’s do it! I began with the first cat facing left. I was a little bit intimidated at first, I must say, and was not drawing with much vigour. Then a quick look at Manet’s drawing reminded me of how free his lines seemed to be, so I let go and began drawing with more spontaneity and larger strokes.

In the short video above, this runs from 00:00 to 00:34. It actually took me about 4 minutes.

 

Second cat

The second cat, which is looking up (make no mistake, it is the same model!), was not easy to draw because of his more complex attitude. I had a little issue with the size of his head, but I pushed through.

In the short video above, this runs from 00:34 to 01:46. It actually took me about 4 minutes.

 

Third cat

The third cat faces backwards. I was delighted by the simple shapes of his body, and what helped me a lot was the line along his back. I was a little bit uneasy with the two first sketches, but I began to really enjoy drawing this one.

In the short video above, this runs from 01:46 to 03:18. It actually took me 4 minutes. After that, I refined the first sketches. In the video this runs from 03:18 to 04:06.

 
 

And voilà!

And voilà! This exercise is finished. How did it go for you? At first, I felt like I was jumping into the unknown, but it was not that hard, was it? As I said before, I noticed that I was already much more comfortable by the third sketch, and I think it shows in the final result. I must also add that it is always a pleasure to draw my favourite co-worker!

Now it can be a beautiful new page of your sketchbook, or you can even frame it, like I did, to make a lovely addition to your home decor.

 

The finished drawing is ready to frame or gift | Sketching a Cat à la Manet, by The Daily Atelier

 

 

If you liked this post, you will almost certainly like some of these other cats and other animals. Enjoy!